When Donnie Walsh took over as Knicks president, he vowed to change the way the franchise deals with the media. (Mike Vaccaro of the Post once described covering the recent Knicks teams by saying, “It’s the Gulag.”) In small ways, that’s happening already. For example, a Knicks player is now available to be interviewed by MSG on his way to the locker room at halftime — though, hilariously, only if the Knicks are winning. But that doesn’t mean the beat reporters aren’t still their old selves. We’re only in week one of the Mike D’Antoni era, and since the new coach hasn’t yet stuck his foot in his mouth, the beat reporters, clearly impatient for a juicy quote, have resorted to lip-reading.
During Wednesday’s opening-night win against the Heat, amid chants of “We want Steph!” from the Garden crowd, D’Antoni is said to have called out “Are you [bleeping] kidding me?” and “What a bunch of [expletives].” (Censorship Newsday’s, not ours, but you get the idea.) Now it’s unclear whether these comments were directed at the fans or the referees — and by the way, if he did direct them toward the fans, you’ve got to admit he has a point — but we know he said them. That’s because someone from Newsday caught the first one (as did MSG’s cameras) and an ESPN Radio producer witnessed the second. So yes, there were multiple members of the press literally watching his lips for — or, at least, listening closely to hear — in-game comments by the Knicks’ coach and willing to report on them.
So, embroiled in his first mini-controversy, D’Antoni then had to field questions about it at practice the next day. His response? “If y’all are going to read my lips during the game there is a lot of stuff I’ll be saying that, probably I’ll have to be like a football coach.” Then he covered his mouth with a piece of paper. “We’ll do that from now on, if that’s news.” Stories like this are funny now, in October, when the Knicks are undefeated. We’ll see if everyone is still laughing in April. Either way, at least Gus Johnson seems to be enjoying himself thus far.